Legislation Introduced Calling for “NATO Plus” Status for Taiwan
On March 19, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) introduced “Taiwan PLUS Act” (H.R.2103) to improve US-Taiwan defense cooperation and make Taiwan a “NATO Plus” country.
Noting that support for defense cooperation with Taiwan is critical to the national security of the United States, the bill, if enacted into law, would include Taiwan into the so-called “NATO Plus” group, which currently includes Japan, Australia, South Korea, Israel, and New Zealand.
The members of “NATO Plus” group are drawn from the 17 countries that have been designated under U.S. law as “major non-NATO allies” (MNNA), which are eligible for a range of defense-related privileges with the United States. Taiwan has been treated as a major non-NATO ally under the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY 2003 (Pub. L. 107–228), although it is not formally designated as such.
The Taiwan PLUS Act would improve Taiwan’s military capabilities against China and treat Taiwan as a country in all relevant laws and regulations for a five-year period. Every five years, the Secretary of State would have the authority to extend the measure if it is found to serve the U.S. national security interest.
Taiwan Blasts China’s “Vaccine Diplomacy” Targeting Paraguay
Some Chinese businessmen have asked Paraguay to break ties with Taiwan as a precondition for purchasing Chinese vaccines, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on March 23, condemning China’s use of vaccines as a political tool.
Paraguay is one of Taiwan’s nine remaining diplomatic allies in the Latin American and Caribbean region. With a population of about 7 million, Paraguay had reported 192,599 cases of COVID-19 as of March 22, including 3,695 deaths, as per WHO data.
Paraguay’s government has confirmed that some Chinese agents have suggested that cutting formal ties with Taiwan is a prerequisite to procure Chinese vaccines. The Paraguayan government said, it is open to trade negotiations on vaccine acquisition with any states or parties, as long as the vaccines meet the country’s health standards. However, it stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used by any parties to pursue political or economic gains.
Taiwan’s government stated that purchasing vaccines is not only a health matter, but also a humanitarian issue. MOFA said that vaccine should not be used as a tool for political manipulation and it is unjustifiable to use the cutting of formal ties with Taiwan as a precondition for acquiring COVID-19 vaccines from China.
Since 2001, China has poached 17 diplomatic allies from Taiwan as Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan and continues to suppress Taiwan’s international space. Some analysts have expressed concern that China could use “vaccine diplomacy” to further isolate Taiwan, taking advantage of the global pandemic.